Sunday September 22
Yesterday turned out to be the busiest day during championship week for the CAP members. Busy, exciting and enlightening.
After eating a quick breakfast, a few CAP members along with Cody Bickley made a run to the grocery store to secure some nourishment for the Greco members that were scheduled to compete that afternoon. Cody had a suggested list of healthy staples designed by a certified dietician at the OTC. Bananas, yogurt, granola bars, nuts, crackers, trail mix and water were some items on the list. Always interesting to see the different grocery items in other countries. Cereal is not the General Mills variety but they look similar in colorful packaging.and I couldn't find milk anywhere. A fellow coach said he thought he saw a smaller fridge over in the corner that might have housed the milk. I rarely go two hours without milk and now it's been over a week. I'm the opposite of lactose intolerant so I'm lucky I'm not experiencing milk withdrawal symptoms.
Headed over to the competition venue at 12:30pm to deliver healthy snacks and observe athlete warmups. It was a full slate of greco so the mats were packed and bustling. Always interesting to see the variety of ways that world class athletes prepare themselves for competition.
The three American wrestlers failed to capture a medal but all gained some invaluable experience. Jesse Theilke, Jordan Holm and Caylor Williams were our representatives with Thielke winning a couple of matches in his initial Senior World Championships and Holm notching a win also. I've been on two prior international trips with Jesse and have enjoyed watching him develop into one of our most promising athletes. I predict next year he comes back from these championships with a medal.
In late afternoon, we made our way downtown for a meeting with National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones and National Developmental Coach Bill Zadick. It was an opportunity for us to experiencing a de-briefing on a variety of subjects. Haven't had the good fortune to chat with Coach Jones before but I have worked with Coach Zadick on several occasions. I could use a variety of superlatives about what a truly genuine guy Bill is but I will describe him the way that I always describe him... he is the type of guy that you would want your son to be around.
Met the national coaches in a hotel lobby and made ourselves comfortable in chairs encircling Jones and Zadick. Zeke talked about 90 minutes but the topics were so relavent and insightful that the time flew. He discussed the recent IOC vote, what it meant to the sport of wrestling, the critical role that USA Wrestling contributed and how we move forward.
Coach Zadick also discussed the performance of the freestyle team and the preparations leading up to this week. Our group was spellbound upon learning the entire timeline of Jordan Burroughs injury and recovery. Unbelievable! No one even blinked when hearing the remarkable story. I think that a couple guys even stopped breathing. It was captivating. Sorry, not going to retell the entire tale but to
make a long heroic story short. Jordan broke his ankle 3 weeks and 5 days before the World Championships. The doctor said it would take 6 weeks before he could compete. Between the time that he broke his ankle and his first match here in Budapest, he wrestled live only one time and that was last Saturday. And then he steps on the mat and dominates the weight class and capture the GOLD. Wow. For a healthy guy that has a structured preparation period immediately prior to the tournament designed for him to peak at the most important time, such domination would be celebrated. How do you react to a young man that didn't walk for two of those three weeks? Wrestled live only once during that period? And then to wrestle with such dominance without being timid or tentative. A legend in its infancy!
After the meeting with Coaches Zeke Jones and Bill Zadick, we were driven to a scheduled event at the Buda Castle. The event was coordinated between Cody Bickley and a young lady that is employed by the United States Embassy in Budapest. She is a Blair Academy graduate so naturally enjoys the sport of wrestling. In fact, I had a common acquaintence as a cadet that I coached at West Point was a schoolmate with her at Blair and they grew up in towns about 10 miles apart. I suppose it is a small world. Anyway, she invited a group of the US delegation to function at Buda Castle and enjoy its scennery and history.
The castle was initially built in the 13th century but we were told that a building on the grounds dates as far back as the 8th century. The castle sits perched on a mountain overlooking the Danube River and Pest on the opposite banks. It is the largest Gothic castle in all of Europe. In its long history, it has been besieged by invading forces on 31 occasions. It has suffered subsequent damage but always repaired or rebuilt. Various Hungarian Kings used the castle as residence. Invading armies such as the Nazis occupied the castle for relatively brief periods. Its history is important to the Hungarians and is well documented.
Our function held in a section called F wing included 5 marines stationed at the castle. They were excited to have Americans visiting and were most welcoming. Our host told us that they had one of the only locations in Hungary that spent Saturdays watching college football. Naturally the games were being projected upon a wall and most of the delegation enjoyed the opportunity to watch Georgia Tech moving the ball down the field. I joined one of my Marine friends in a game of pool in a side room while listening to American 80's music. MC Hammer had invaded the Buda Castle on that particular Saturday evening.
Several boxes of pizza were delivered, sliced up and eagerly devoured. It was a fun evening of fellowship. The scene outside couldn't be resisted by most in our group. Buda Castle is situated on top of a
small mountain overlooking the Danube River. On the opposite bank in Pest sit the Parliment Building. Pushed against the river, it is one the most beautiful and photographed government buildings in the world.
From Buda Castle it is an impressive sight but with a blood red full moon rising just right of its roof was simply breathtaking. Lots of pictures were taken attempting to capture a moment that is never as inspiring as just being there and seeing it with your own eyes.
A great night and a perfect ending to a fantastic day. One more day of wrestling and then travel day. Excited for our three entrants tomorrow but I think that everyones mind is starting to wander toward home and those waiting for them. Good night from beautiful Buda Castle above the Danube.
Saturday September 21
The commencement of Greco competition is always a highlight in Europe. Even though only one Greco weight class would be contested the crowds were noticeable larger. The biggest crowd of the week.
With the crowd comes the greco legends. I noticed a man sitting a couple rows in fromt of me as being pretty large. A few minutes later he captures my attention again and I realize that he is extremely large. At that moment he turns his head to comment to his friend next to him and I recognize the greatest wrestler that has ever stepped on the mat. Alexander Karelin is sitting a couple rows in front of me.
I watch him like a stalker for the next couple minutes. I respect his solitude and brief anonymity before he is recognized by an admirer wanting a photo. Then the mob scene begins and never ends for the poor man. He graciously poses for photos and signs autographs for probably the rest of the day as far as I could tell. Karelin seems to be a very humble guy and most obviously remains a great ambassador of the sport of wrestling.
Spencer Mango got the Greco squad off with a strong performance culminatied in an appearance in the bronze match. Unfortunately he had tight loss which truly could have gone either way. Spencer put together a spirited performance and I hope that it gives our guys some momentum going into the next day when we have a full fare of three greco wrestlers on the docket.
The females closed out their portion of the competition with Adeline Gray capturing a bronze medal. The team coached by Terry Steiner also brought home a team trophy by placing third overall.
Members of the CAP program spend a lot of time together over the course of eight days. You get to know each other pretty well in such an environment. I was interested to learn of a favorite passion of Rufus Maxfield. Rufus was a coach in upstate New York around the Rochester area for years before his current residence in Texas. Rufus loves to ride his motorcycle on his cross continental trips. He has seen just about every corner of the North American continent from the seat of his motorcycle. Most interestingly, Rufus was struck by lightening last year while riding his BMW bike. An event that I have never heard of before especially from someone that personally experience it. Needless to say he suffered a few injuries, since recovered and we are fortunate to have him with us enjoying the World Championships. By the way, Rufus is 70 years old. He knows how to enjoy life.
Friday September 20
The CAP members woke up in time for breakfast and another filed trip. Destination was the Szecheny Bath and Spa
First, a little about the hospitable city hosting this year's World Championships.
The city of Budapest is a city divided.... geographically speaking. The Danube River seperates west-bank Buda from east-bank Pez. Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the Danube with a unification inr 1873. The city the largest in East-Central Europe and one of the largest cities in the European Union.
Budapest is called the city of spas, and the Szechenyi Bath and Spa was its first thermal baths on the Pest side. At the time, back in 1881, it was called "Artesian Bath", and was only a temporary establishment. In 1913, it was converted into a permanent bath, and received its present name.
All the guys of the CAP enjoyed the many thermal pools on the grounds with each pool being somewhat varied in temperature. There were also wet and dry saunas along with massage rooms. General admission is approximately $18. An enlightening experience that left everyone vowing a repeat visit later in the week.
In regards to the World Championships, it is "hump day" marking the halfway point of the week long competition. It also featured the only day that only females are competing. The United States Elena Pirozhkova, a native of Russia, ironically faced a Russian opponent in the bronze medal match. Elena prevailed adding another medal to her impressive collection.
Another highlight of the day was Marianna Sastin of Hungary capturing the 59kg category with the the enthusiastic support of the home crowd. The medal ceremony was quite a sight with citizens of the homeland completely encircling the podium stage joyfully singing the national anthem with a sea of Hungarian flags being waved triumphantly. I'm sure it brought chills to everyone fortunate to witness the scene.
Thursday, September 19
It was an honor, a privilege and most assuredly a lifetime memory in watching Jordan Burroughs tear through the World Championships yesterday.
More noteworthy is the fact that it was only a month after breaking his ankle while training at the OTC. The latest "beat Jordan Burroughs" strategies were unveiled with one wrestler employing the MMA striking strategy in repeatedly slugging JB and trying to rattle him. His tactics eventually resulted in him being DQd. The opponent from Iran deployed a strategy JB will see quite often in his career. He kept very low with one hand to the mat making it almost impossible even for Burroughs to hit a successful double leg. Iran kept it very close until JB secured a safe margin very late in match. Iran was the only wrestler to last the distance with JB. Two world titles, one Olympic title and a 65-0 international record. The legacy is still in its infancy.
The team ended up 5th in the team race won by Iran. The US result should be considered very good but probably not spectacular. I would rather have one gold and several guys go very deep into the tournament than a couple bronzes and everyone else losing first round. It was a strong team effort even though the medal count might not reflect it.
A late evening celebration was enjoyed by many of the American contingent on hand and occurred with a scenic backdrop. Everyone, including JB and USAW leadership, boarded a large tour boat and steamed up and down the Danube. It was a night of celebration and quite possibly a little relief. Many people burdened with the true perilous scenario of JB and the prospect of unlikely participation could finally exhale
Wednesday, September 18
Since I am a proud Hoosier, it was exciting to watch Indiana high school products Angel Escobedo and Reece Humphrey go deep into the tournament on Monday and Tuesday respectfully. Angel made it to the bronze medal match and Reece wasn't defeated until the quarters. I know that both wanted better outcomes but they represented themselves quite well with some quality wins and gaining valuable experience. I'm confident both will return and compete on the raised mats of the World Championships.
Angel was the lone grappler winning multiple matches on Monday as Brent Metcalf and JD Bergman suffered early defeats. Tuesday was a different story as Humphrey was joined by Tervel Dilanev tin enjoying tthe opportunity to be competing late in the day. Dilanev was defeated in the bronze medal match.
With American wrestlers competing well into the afternoon, it gave CAP coaches the opportunity to observe the techniques and strategy utilized by wrestlers and national coaches in regards to cooling down, scouting of next opponent, addressing injuries, warm up and mental preparation for next opponent etc. Since matches are sometimes delayed only by the mandatory15 minute rest , all these adjustments need to be quick, seamless and effective for optimum performance. The American coaching staff resembled an orchestra. Each coach had a different role but when done correctly the result was pure harmony. Another comparison might be that of a pit crew at the Indy 500.
Of course I was also captivated by the strategies employed by other countries. I was 15 feet away from Russian superstar Gatsalov between matches and I watched him lie down on his back, put a towell over his face and then apparently fall asleep for almost 20 minutes before a Ruusian coach came over and nudged him and told him it was time to wrestle. The 5-time World Champion wiped his eyes while adjusting to the light, rolled his neck once, did a couple slow knee over foot penetration steps and then purposefully strolled out to the mat where he vanquished one of the worlds best heavyweights in the first period.
Thus far, the medal count does not reflect the performance of our team. Three guys have wrestled deep into the tournament. But tomorrow we absolutely need to medal. The burden falls upon the formidable shoulders of Jordan Burroughs. Despite persistent rumors of a serious foot injury, he not only must medal, he must win. Remember, all he sees is Gold!
Tuesday September 17th
Woke at dawn with the early sun filtered through the patio window here at the Premium Apartment Complex in Budapest. The members of the CAP program are being here but a short 10 minute ride from the competition venue. The apartment in which I awken is cozy containing a small kitchen, lounging area with couch / tv and then a small area with two twin beds. After quietly dressing I slip into the hallway trying not to disturb my roommates Zach Ison and Steve Mickelson. Breakfast doesn't begin service until 7am so I use the next 20 minutes catching up on emails. Finding myself to be a solitary figure in the banquet room is a welcome respite in contrast to the hectic airports and packed airplanes of the day prior.
As breakfast service commences I am joined at my table by USA Wrestling Coaches Education Manager Cody Bickley and his wife Lynette. I have had countless opportunities to watch Cody in action including Bronze Level Certifications, Silver Coaching Colleges and various CAP programs. I have always found Cody to be the consummate professional. A small town guy with an even keel personality and a penchant for organization. An all round great guy that just loves the sport of wrestling and always has an enlightening tidbit of information. In that regard I pepper him with questions regarding our three freestylers competing today and thier respective opponents.
A coach helping the greco team also joined us. His name is Ahad Javansalehi. A former Greco competitor for Iran, Ahad was known as "the lion from Iran" and much beloved by the wrestling crazed populace. Coach Ahad now lives and coaches in Oregon. He impressed me to be both amiable and humble. He also was very gracious in answering my endless questions about wrestling and life in general in regards to Iran. I am lucky to be in this situation that I can meet heroes of the sport and get to know them on a personal basis.
Breakfast at the apartments is located in the banquet room. A large serving tray of scrambled eggs is the headliner along with several trays of meat. The typical Hungarian is obviously a carnivore. Extra thick bacon cut into inch long pieces and several types of sausage. Fresh orange juice is available to wash it all down. A hearty breakfast on the first day of competition.
Well time to leave for the competition venue. Always like to get there an hour early so I can watch the teams prepare in the warm up area.
Til later, Go TEAM USA!
Monday September 16th
My name is Matt Hampton and I will be writing a blog this week during the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
The blog will chronicle the week through the eyes of some very fortunate grass roots wrestling coaches selected to participate in the USA Wrestling Coaches Apprentice Program (CAP).
Now in its fifth year, the program provides selected coaches the opportunity for professional growth with field experience assisting at the World Championships. CAP participants are official members of the
USA delegation and included in events and activities associated with the competition. They receive an official team gear package with the trip.
The nine selected coaches selected for the 2013 CAP:
Mike Chandler (Norman, OK)
Matt Hampton (Evanston, IL)
Brent Harvey (Fenton, MI)
Jeremy Hernandez (Pueblo, CO)
Zachary Ison (Batavia, OH)
Will Kelly (Cedar Falls, IA)
Rufus Maxfield (Kerville, TX)
Steve Mickelson (Huxley, IA)
Andrew Nicola (Lebanon, TN)
Sunday September 15th
Not much to report since it is a traveling day. Everybody made it in to Budapest safely. Coaches meeting with USA Wrestling Coaches Education Manager Cody Bickley enlightened us with the schedule for the week. Everybody is very excited for the approaching days of competition and opportunities for enrichment. Time to sleep and try to shake of the jet lag as soon as possible.